Thursday, July 31, 2014

the worst week: a 3am upchucking

A few weeks ago, we had one of those weeks that in the grand scheme of things, was nothing.  There are problems all over the world, the county and our town that deserve a look before listening to the $ Family whine and moan about our five days of Hades... but it's worth a mention, nonetheless.

In fact, The Lovely Steph Leann called the week, once it was completed, "the most asinine week we've had in a long time."  I thought about calling this post "the most asinine week", but I wasn't sure how the word "asinine" would play in any blogrolls that I'm privileged enough to be a part of.  Heck, in that one sentence, I've just used the word "asinine" more than the entire history of the blog.

SUNDAY
Campbell wasn't feeling good.  We knew this.  He was warm much of Sunday evening, somewhat fever like, and we hoped that some fever remedy and sleep would help him.  Because we wanted to make sure that he was okay before letting him leave the house on Monday, The Lovely Steph Leann stayed with him Monday morning, going into work at lunch.

MONDAY
For summer school, he would normally go Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, while staying with the grandparents, Pops and GG on Monday and Friday.   The Lovely Steph Leann let Campbell sleep in, then got him up, bathed him, dressed him, fed him, and took him to the grandparents around noon, so she could head onto work. 

I pick him up in the afternoon, and though he seemed to be feeling better, we were very cautious.  The last thing we wanted to do was send him to school the next day at less than 100%, because aren't not going to be those parents who send their kid to school sick, giving everyone fever or asthma or Ebola or whatever he might have. 

He ate a decent dinner of English peas and carrots and some fruit, drank lots of liquids, meaning lots of wet diapers, played accordingly, and finally we took him upstairs to put him to bed.  If I remember correctly, The Lovely Steph Leann had rocked him to sleep, but when she lay him down onto the bed, he woke up.  She laid beside him, and he wouldn't go back to sleep.

I came to bed, laid on the other side of him to try to get him to sleep... and nothing.  We dozed, he dozed, he would wake up, waking us up.  We'd get him back to sleep, we'd go back to sleep, he would wake, we would wake...

1am... then 2am... by 230, I had already sent a text to work saying I wouldn't be in until between 10 and 11am...

At 3am, Campbell began to cry nearly uncontrollably.  I held him, sitting on our bed, legs crossed "Indian style", calming him down.  He quieted a little, and I thought perhaps this might when he sleeps...

...every parent knows that all children are different.  Even if you have multiple children, they are different in little ways as well as their overall uniqueness... and so when your child is sick, you know "the gurgle", or the little cough sound, or burp-like sound that is made right before it is about to get messy.  And many children put very little time between that sound and what's to come.  Perhaps just enough time to make you aware that it's about to get real up this piece... and Campbell is the same way...

...he gurgled.  Slightly, just a little, quietly, but I heard it.  I had just enough time for my brain to formulate the words, "Hey, The Lovely Steph Leann, he's about to..." before it happened.  Campbell threw up.  Gobs of half digested peas and carrots came streaming out of his mouth and nose, in large clunky chunks... in big chunky clunks... it dripped down my shirt, it coated his front, it went down my arm, and a large portion fell directly into my lap.  It was wet and warm and disgusting.  The stench hit me like a blast, both from the pile in my lap, the chunks that were on my shirt and arm, and from him, who had it all over his face and now hands, as he tried to wipe it away.  Scared, he began to cry even more, with his hot little breath in my face.  I'm someone with a strong stomach, always have been, but I immediately threw my hand to my own mouth, held my nose, closed my eyes and held my breath until the sensation passed. 

The Lovely Steph Leann, in the bathroom trying to get something for him, ran in quickly, and threw a towel over to both of us just in time to catch a little amount of the second wave of Campbell. While it was only a little this time, it was still enough to send the toddler over the edge in the scared department, as he wailed.  The towel, actually on the bed in case this happened, was out of my reach, and so when The Lovely Steph Leann tossed it to me, it made no difference, getting only a corner and a small spot elsewhere infected with digestion.

She picked him up, and after catching my breath, I set about the task of clean up.  Stripping the bed, changing clothes, washing off chunks from everything, tossing everything into the washer, going back and remaking the bed... The Lovely Steph Leann took Campbell into his bathroom, ran him a bath, calmed him down and slowly and gently bathed him.  She was a pro, keeping him calm, making him feel safe and secure...

By 345 or so, it was all over.  Fresh sheets, fresh clothes, freshly washed baby, washed off Mommy and Daddy... about 430, we all three fell asleep, finally.

TUESDAY
I got up a few hours later, showered and made it to work around 1130, just exhausted.  When I got home, The Lovely Steph Leann was resting on the couch, while Campbell played in the floor.  She said he had been sleepy and sluggish all day too, to no one's surprise there.

WEDNESDAY
We made the decision for The Lovely Steph Leann to keep him home one more day to ensure that he was feeling good.  And he was.  Whatever it was that hit him had seemingly passed through... literally, as he still had diarrhea on Tuesday, but it had mostly run its course on Wednesday.

All signs pointed to Campbell returning to school on Thursday, and The Lovely Steph Leann returning to work.   Of course, after we had dinner, I didn't think much of her saying her stomach felt kinda weird... she wasn't feeling bad, it was more of a throbbing pain of sorts. 

She used some Essential Oils, took some vitamins and we all went to bed, still-tired Campbell sleeping like a rock.

Surely, this is the end of the troubled week, no?  The kid better, we are rested, things are looking up, right? Right? 

If that was the case, we'd have called this post "The Worst 1/2 Week". 

Tomorrow... in The Worst Week Part II... the hospital... the waiting... the cutting... the shower...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

HALLO POPPY

HALLO POPPY!!

I do that sometimes.  In a loud, obnoxious voice with a bad Cockney accent, I'll say "Hello Poppy", but it comes out "ALLO PAHPAY!!!!" sometimes for no reason.  Strangely enough, I don't think I've ever done it around The Lovely Steph Leann, but Campbell has heard it a few times.  Campbell is the 2 1/2 year old.

Some of you are reading that line about Campbell and saying, "We know who Campbell is!"... but some of you are stumbling across this page for the first time...

So, let me essplain... no, there is too much, let me sum up...

Well, really, there isn't too much, there's just a little, but I had to be true to Innigo's line.

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend named Jamie, who you has her own splendid blog that I do enjoy, and asked me if I wanted to be involved in a Blog Hop.  A Blog Huh?  It's a Blog Hop.  As she put it, "Its where someone links to you in a post introducing you their readers, then when you post, you link back to them and then introduce others.  In this instance, you would answer the questions provided and check with three more people."

Sounds easy enough.  And then I remembered, "Well, crap it all, I've got about 9 posts somewhere in between nearly done and four letters on a blank screen, so I need to post something quickly!  So people who come here won't think 'Wow.  He only posts like once per month.'"  Which sadly, sometimes is true.  Such is life.

Anyway, can you believe I'm close to 1000 posts?  Seriously. 

Glad you are here.  Look around.  Click some links.  Ask some questions.   

love shoulda brought you home last night

"Love shoulda brought you home, you home last night, shoulda been with me, shoulda been by my side... oh baby, if you care anything for me, then love should brought you home last night"
There is a movie somewhere in the middle of my 500 favorite films of all time, one that you probably have heard of, but might have never seen. Or perhaps you've never heard of it, at all... in any case, its not a great film.

Well, its not even a good film, if I'm being honest... but its entertaining. And its got something that I really put a lot of stock into--"re-watchability". There are brilliant films out there, like "Saving Private Ryan" or "The Gangs of New York" or even just great movies like "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" or more recently, "Super 8", that I'd put on any great film list... but they aren't movies I'd sit and watch over and over. 

"Boomerang", however, is one I could watch over and over. It's somewhat of a forgettable movie from 1992, with Eddie Murphy , Robin Givens (back when she was relevant, as the new ex-Mike Tyson), a much younger Halle Berry, David Alan Grier, early Martin Lawrence and Chris Rock in one of his first films…

Eddie is Marcus, who is a straight up playa.. not just a player, but for you extremely white, not down with the hip hop speak folks, a playa, who leaves a long line of women behind him who’s he has gone out with and has departed less than acrimoniously. Working at an ad agency, he gets a new boss named Jacqueline (Robin Givens), who herself is a playa… a playette? Is that what you call it? Mandie Tuck, do you know the answer?

Anyway… Marcus falls for Jacqueline, and then is played… the song on the excellent soundtrack that plays during the scene when he realizes he’s been hustled is “Total Reversal of a Dog”, which fits nicely here. He laments his woes to his friend Angela (Halle Berry), who turns around and falls for him. And predictably, Marcus falls for Angela.

Jacqueline sees Marcus now ignoring her for the very plain-jane Angela… and being female and naturally competitive when it comes to men, is furious, and aims to get him back. 

And here’s where the point of this whole thing comes in… Jacqueline seduces Marcus one more time, presumably just to ruin his and Angela’s relationship… and it almost works.

Angela finds out about it… Marcus comes in, and she demands the truth, and he admits he messed up big time, and then follows it up with, “Angela, I love you…”

Angela responds with this: What do you know about love? What do you possibly think you know about love? You know, I’m sick and tired of men using love like it’s some kind of disease you can catch…

And here’s the money line: 

"Love shoulda brought your (posterior) home last night”
We use “love” for everything. You love Alabama football. Your college daughter her sorority. The Lovely Steph Leann loves “Sense & Sensibility”. I love the Toni Braxton song that comes with this scene, “Love Shoulda Brought You Home Last Night”… we love everything, from beach weekends to cheesecake to Ryan Gosling movies to a pickup truck we’ve been wanting to own.

And that’s okay. It’s the way we are wired, to express our great feeling, our great affection for something, we use “Love” over “like”, because it puts forth a sentiment that this particular thing is not just something we casually enjoy, but we really, really, reeeeeeallly enjoy partaking of.

Then there is that next level of love, that even though the word is the same, the meaning is deeper, more meaningful. Joey Thornell will tell you he loves Alabama football… but you’ll never make me believe that “I love Alabama football” and “I love my boys” has the same meaning, ever. Same word, big difference.

Love… shoulda brought us home last night.

Watching the movie, you believe that Marcus has fallen for Angela, so its wildly irritating when he nearly throws it all away because he gave in to Jacqueline’s Jezebelocity. Is that a word? It is now.

When we say “we love God”, what do we mean? What version of love do we use? I know what we WANT to use… I know the way we WANT to mean it… but how do we really mean it? Do we profess love for Christ in the same meaning we profess the way we love a TV Show or a song or afternoon naps… or do we truly mean a deep love for Christ in the same way we love our spouses, our children, our families, our most cherished possessions?

Because Love… true love… shoulda brought us home last night. 

True agape love, the deep kind of love and affection that we should have for our Christ is the kind of love that prevents us from going out into the world only to come home to Jesus the next day and say, “Yeah, I know I did all that, but I love you, God.” Following Christ should keep us from wanting to venture into Monday thru Saturday and being our own selves, then coming home to Christ on Sunday to say, “I love you, Jesus!”

Don’t get me wrong… I know there is grace. There is mercy. Because of a cross on a hill, there is forgiveness—grace abounds, I’m the chief abuser… but that’s where many people stop—“I screwed up, but I am forgiven so it’s all good. Hey, World, what’s going on witcha?” 

See, we can’t stop there… because of the Holy Spirit, there is also a need for repentance, a pursuit of a love for God that surpasses the love for our own children, our own selves… not a love that is slightly ahead of the latest Justin Timberlake album (which by the way is just okay… if you are getting a JT album , start with “Justified”, as it’s got my favorite Timberlake song on it, “Rock Your Body”, which I love because… wait… crap, I hate it when I prove my own point on myself… you know what, let’s move on.) 

Because Love… shoulda brought us home last night.  

With the power of the Holy Spirit, with the love of Christ—and let’s face it, it’s a love that we cannot replicate, because it is too deep, too wide, too infinite and monumental for our limited understand—we can resist those things that test that love, we can have freedom from the world who will cause our actions to be anything less than continual displays of love for our God. 

And in this, we won’t hear Jesus quietly saying to us, “Love shoulda brought you home last night”… instead, we’ll hear the sweet sound of Jesus’ approval, saying “It is in My love that you have remained here.” And that’s a love that we should all desire so deeply and passionately, it knows no end.

By the way… when using spell check, “Jezebelocity” was suggested to be “Jezebel City”. I find that entire possibility both hilarious and fascinating. Love does not take you to Jezebel City, I can assure you. Nor Paradise City. Maybe Panama City, but probably not during MTV’s Spring Break party at Club La Vela. Not that I would know about that. Stephanie told me. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

live from the apple store

So, I'm sitting in the Apple Store, at a side counter, on a computer.  My iPhone battery is on it's death bed, having already signed it's will, and issued a DNR to me for the eventual demise.  I use my iPhone like it's some sort of turbine pumping air through my lungs.  It's rather sad...

I don't have a problem... I don't... I can... I can quit anytime!  LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

Where was I?

Yes, since I joined the Facebook social group Dreamers and Builders, formerly known as The START Experiment before it's founder Jon Acuff and legendary money guru Dave Ramsey parted ways in October of 2013, my iPhone usage has leaped about 400% percent.  Now, combine that with two things... first, the growth of Disney on a Dollar, my Disney travel planning service... and second, the job I took in November, and that we aren't supposed to be doing non-work stuff on a computer that is at work... meaning in addition to using my iPhone for regular things like Mapquest and movie times and emails and such, I'm now on social media a lot more, and now doing a lot more business on the phone.

End result?  Well, when I came in here today, the Apple Chick pulled up a little square diagram, with green in the top left corner, red in the bottom right corner, an orangish yellowish color in the other two squares, and a little dot in the bottom red.  This showed my battery.

So, now I sit in the bastion of hipsters all wearing skinny jeans and many with rings through their noses and ears and eyes, awaiting my new battery on my phone.

Don't get me wrong, rings through noses and ears and eyelids aren't really a problem... I think to fully understand the Whole Foods culture and integrate properly, you need to have a ring through sometime, or a wild tattoo, or best yet, a ring going through a wild tattoo--and the people at Whole Foods are some of the nicest people that I've ever met at any retail store.  It was a real lesson in stereotyping.  Sure, I am guessing they go home and fire up the Tori Amos and White Stripes, but when at work, nothing but nice.  Crap, I did it again.


Oh, my iPhone is here.  Gotta tell ya, it's been wonderful typing on such a well working computer.  Okay, bye.

Monday, July 07, 2014

casey, will you please play...

Record stores sell 'em, radio stations play 'em, and Billboard count's 'em down...

Casey Kasem died a few weeks ago, and I started this the day after his death, only to finish it a few days ago... sorry it's late.  While I will admit it doesn't leave a hole in my being at this stage in my life, it does strike me as kinda sad.  He died of a form of dementia, but his death was somewhat quickened by the way his family jockeyed him back and forth in his final years... his second wife, the current one, forbade his children (with his first wife) to even see Casey, to which they turned around and sued.  At one point, Jean Kasem hid her husband, telling the court that Casey was "no longer in the United States".  He was found in Washington state soon after.  His kids finally got the injunction they wanted, and took over his care, getting a court order to allow Kasem to be taken off ventilators and food machines. 

As a lifelong fan of music, there are three main individuals that had an impact on my musical knowledge... in no particular order:

John Garabedian, the host of Open House Party.  I was never all that popular in school, especially middle school... I didn't go to many parties, mostly because I wasn't invited, and I didn't get asked to hang out a lot on the weekends.  I listened to Open House Party on WKMX 106.7, and understood all the new stuff coming up.  (I wrote another two paragraphs on this just now, and realized this should be it's own blogpost)

Dave "Doc" Kirby, the program director for WTBF 94.7 in Troy Alabama.  First, he hired on my best mate Wookiee as a part time DJ, then he hired me on in 1997, where I ran the mid-morning show for two hours, then some talk radio programs.  But in those morning two hours, I got my education on 60s and 70s rock, everything from Firefall to The Doobie Brothers. 

and finally...

Casey Kasem.  Every Sunday, on the aforementioned WKMX Maximum Music 106.7, Casey Kasem's American Top 40 would play, starting at noon, and ending around 4pm.  And every Sunday, right after church, I would go to my room and spend the afternoon doing whatever, including writing, LEGOs, drawing, creating whatever my 10 year old mind would create... all the while, Casey would tell us "Record stores sell 'em, radio stations play 'em and Radio & Records counts them down!", then he'd get onto the countdown. 

I would write down each song as it was ranked...

I would wait anxiously for how many songs debuted, keeping track of the new music that would end up being huge, like if Lionel Richie's new song "Dancing on the Ceiling" premiered at #35, or this new band, New Kids on the Block, and their first song, which debuts at #37... and how many dropped out, using the dropping out as a benchmark for the end of a song's run, like when "Beat It" finally fell out of the Top 40 after a bajillionty weeks on the countdown.

Then I'd listen as the songs came one by one...

"...at number 34 for a second week in a row is the British band Tears for Fears, with their latest hit, 'Head Over Heels'"
or
"...it peaked at number 5 on the AT40 charts, but Belinda Carlisle falls three notches to number 25 with her latest smash, 'Heaven is a Place on Earth'"
or
"...that was Boston, dropping down to number 2 after spending two weeks at the top spot with 'Amanda'... and now, our new number one song in the land (insert story here about the band) is... 'Human' by The Human League!!!"

Several times, there'd be a listener question that would be teased in one segment ("Coming up, a listener wants to know, what song had the longest title to hit #1 in the rock era?  The answer features a beach and swimwear... we'll have that answer coming up!") and then the commercials, and then the familiar voices of the chicks, singing "American... Top Foooorty...."

Then Casey would play a song, and then answer the question... "John from Des Moines wants to know, what song had the longest title to hit #1 in the rock era?  Well, you have to look all the way back to 1958 when..." and then he'd explain.  By the way, the answer is, in fact, "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"--I used that example because it actually is the right answer.

I always wondered if these were actual letters from fans across the country, or if every Tuesday Casey stuck his head in the writers room and said, "Okay guys, I need questions.  You come up with three each, plus the answer, and I'll pick my favorites.  Go!"

Then later in the broadcast, several times, we'd have the infamous Request and Dedication... again it would be teased right before a break ("Up next, a request and dedication from a man in Florida who seeks to find the one that got away... I'll have details coming up...") and then commercial, and then, of course, a song. 

"And now, a request and dedication from a man in Florida who wants to reconnect with his soulmate.  It reads: 

Dear Casey, I made a terrible mistake.  I let the one girl I loved get away.  I lived next door to my best friend, Judy, for over ten years, starting when we were in 7th grade.  We grew up together, side by side, walking to school together, learning to drive together, even going to prom together, though we were always just friends.  Then, when we graduated, she went out of state to college, and I went to a local junior college.  She wrote me a letter before she left, and it told me how she had always loved me, and wanted to know if I felt the same.  I didn't know how I felt, because Judy had always been just my friend, so I wrote back and told her that I didn't and that I loved someone else who I was dating at the time.  But I then realized that I did love Judy.  I broke it off with the other girl, and tried to find Judy, but I know that I've broken her heart.  She won't return my phone calls and all of my other letters have been returned unopened, and I don't know how to find her.  I miss her every day, and wish I had a chance to tell her that I love her too.  Casey, would you please play REO Speedwagon's "Keep on Loving You", to let Judy know that I'll wait for her to come back.  Signed, Robert.

Robert, here's your long distance dedication."

I made this up... but it certainly fits the narrative.  By the way, the R&D was the source of Casey's infamous "Snuggles" cursing rant, when in September of 1985, he had just finished playing an upbeat Pointer Sisters song, and then took several takes because he couldn't find the right amount of somberness to properly read a sad dedication about a woman who's dog had just died.  He then went into a saucy, profanity filled tirade at his producer for putting the dedication right after such a happy song.  I've heard it, it's glorious.  Mental Floss actually has a link to it, plus some other Casey facts, including mistakes he's made, and the one song title he wouldn't say during the song's entire chart run.

Anyway, I'd be on my bottom bunk of my bunk beds, listening, soaking up every word Casey said, learning about the singers and bands--like, the band Simply Red was at first just called "Red", but when someone was introducing them, they were called something else by accident... the lead singer whispered to the guy "NO!  Not that!  It's just RED!  It's simply... Red!" and the announcer said, "Oh, I'm sorry... here comes SIMPLY RED!"

And how .38 Special got it's name, something about an incident with a gun that almost killed someone... and every now and then, he'd do a special report on a trend in the music industry, like one in particular that told me how .45s were beginning to fade away, and the newest thing was "...the cassingle... it's a cassette tape with a song on each side, and they are gaining in popularity!"  (Obviously so, I still have over 200 of them in a box)

Casey would get to the Top Five, and nothing would tear me away from my stereo... of course, since I listened so regularly, by the time he got to #3, I had an idea of how it would play out, but still... I'd hear that drumroll, and I'd be ready, not daring to write down what I already knew would be the top song... "For the second week in a row, the number one song in the nation is... 'Shake You Down' by Gregory Abbott!"

And of course, after he reads all the credits, he'd remind us to "keep our feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars!"  They should put that on an inspirational poster.

That was a typical Sunday for me... but then, the big countdowns would be even better... he'd take the last week of December and the first week of January, and do the TOP ONE HUNDRED of the year--fifty songs on one show, fifty songs on the next... and even if I had several of these countdowns written down, I'd still write down all 100, song by song as it's played.  I was at my friend Greg Avant's house one New Year's Eve, and I made him listen to the countdown as WKMX was playing it where the #1 song would coincide with midnight... we railed against the fact the #1 song was Elton John, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder's "That's What Friends Are For".  The following year, it was much better, with The Bangles "Walk Like an Egyptian", and I was pleased that Debbie Gibson, my Hollywood Girlfriend in 1987, ranked in the Top 10 for the year with "Lost in Your Eyes".

All in all, I was a huge fan.  A local radio station in Birmingham, WMJJ Magic 96.5, plays old countdowns on Sunday morning, starting at 9am.  As we are racing to church, we usually can hear the first couple of songs, and by the time we get out of church, it's usually in the Top 6 or 7.  I've actually sat in the car before going in a restaurant because it was on #2, and I had to know what #1 was (that particular week it was "What's Love Got to Do with It?" by Tina Turner).

And it irritated the heck out of me when last November, they went wall-to-wall Christmas Music, meaning no Casey for two months.   Sidenote:  One thing I have learned in listening to this countdown on Magic 96.5 as we go to church is that the early 80s really sucked when it came to music.  The Lovely Steph Leann and I like about one in every five songs we hear, many of them have never been heard before by our own ears.

So there ya go... I enjoyed him as Shaggy in Scooby Doo cartoons... I really liked him in Battle of the Planets, my favorite cartoon as a kid... but American Top 40 was were it was at for me when it came to Casey Kasem. 

Thanks Casey, for decades of enjoyment.  My feet will stay on the ground, and I'll reach those stars one day, I promise. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

the transformers age of extinction review

So, it's like butt thirty in the morning, and I got in a little bit ago from watching "Transformers: Age of Extinction".  I'm tired, I have to be up in a few hours so I can go and do work... but I thought it would be a great time to toss out a quick review of this film, in case you want to see it.

First, I have to tell you the trilogy that comes before this film is both loved and hated.  The first one was pretty awesome, the second was dreary and not awesome, while the third rebounded quite nicely to make a good--not great--film... think of it how "Ocean's Twelve" was just awful, leading into a watchable "Ocean's Thirteen"... only with more explosions, less casinos and no Pacino.

After the events of the previous film, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon", which by the way, they make no mention of anything that happened in the first two films, other than a Megatron reference here and there... anyway, Chicago was wasted in that last film, and now the Autobots are the enemy.  A CIA agent, played very d-baggedly by Kelsey Grammer, a dirty ops leader (character actor Titus Welliver, who you would know if you saw him) and a scientist (played by Stanley Tucci, naturally) are all working together to gather the metal from the Transformers to create a new kind of metal so they... you know what, it doesn't matter.

The film is good.  It's not great.  It's not very good.  It's just good and satisfying.  The first hour is a little slower, setting up new lead Mark Wahlberg (No Shia! No Shia! No Shia!) and his family as the heroes, with Optimus Prime returning for battle. 

What I liked about this film is the story was actually understandable and cohesive, with only a few plot holes this time around, plus the action is done in a way where you don't lose sight of what you are watching.  The first film, and especially the second, had a habit of blending the CGI together so badly that when robots fought, you couldn't tell who was what.  This is a more of a broader picture, so you can actually see who you are rooting for... and the transforming is also better.  Again, in previous films, it was just one big blur of special effects and sounds to turn a robot into a Ferrari, but here, I could actually see Optimus Prime's moving parts as he turned into a big rig truck.

Mark Wahlberg is good, as is Stanley "The Tuch" Tucci, while comedian TJ Miller is in danger of stealing the movie with his funny one liners.  The dialogue was also good, without the constant silliness, sometimes a little dirty and mostly stupid lines we got from Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox.  Sure, the bad guy robot at the end, yelling at the top of his lungs, "YOU HAVE RUINED EVERYTHING!!!" was a little much, but overall, it was pretty good. 

(Sidebar:  One of my favorite podcasts is Doug Benson's "Doug Loves Movies", which actually features TJ Miller as a guest frequently... and it also has a running gag about Mark Wahlberg which, as my buddy Mikey pointed out, "Marky Mark is hard for me to take seriously amymore.  Doug Loves Movies podcast has completely ruined him for me.")

The bad news?  It's long.  It's so, so long.  Our movie started tonight at 945pm... and no lie, we were done at 12:54am.  Its just over 3 hour running time with trailers included.  This film did not need to be this long for any reason... it just kept going and going, with several parts that could have easily been cut out, or pared down.  Michael Bay seemingly did us the courteousy of having the first two films, this one and the next one, in his new trilogy all crammed into one film... its overindulgent and explody (my friend Hurricane Rhett used these terms which I thought fit the bill precisely)

The Dinobots do make an appearance, but by the time they showed up, I almost didn't care because it was so far into the movie.  When they do come in, while extremely cool, it struck me to be similar to the Army of the Dead, coming in to do their thing at Minis Tirith in  "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." (nerd alert! nerd alert!)

The question of the day--is it worth the money?  If you are diehard Transformers fan, yes.  If you are a casual fan, maybe not.  Try to catch a matinee, and leave yourself plenty of time to get in and get out.   Will the kids like it?  Depends on how patient yours is... it's a slow start, and though the action is plenty, there are long spells of conversation and exposition in between the action scenes. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

if you give a soldier a sundae

When I write something, I'll usually plug it on various social media sites, like Facebook--my own profile page, the Dreamers & Builders group page I'm in, the Clouds in my Coffee FB site, etc--and then sometimes on Twitter and even on Instagram.

Not going to do that with this post, because this isn't about what I did. It's about what we should all be doing.

The Lovely Steph Leann is out of town this week, doing a Young Living Essential Oils conference for the week. I'll get some Aunt Becky relief with Campbell on Tuesday night, but until then, its been hashtag guys weekend from Saturday morning, all day today and through tomorrow night--Campbell and I just hanging. The fact that the house hasn't burned to the ground is likely a good thing.

We went to Kingdom Comics today, as my friend Hurricane Rhett was on a Transformers discussion panel... I think KC is going to start a podcast, Kingdom Cast, which is an idea probably long overdue... anyway, Campbell was in the stroller as I wheeled him around the store while the panel was taking place--its small enough that I could still hear everything being said. Eventually, I stopped strolling him and just picked him up, where he proceeded to squirm, then stop squirming and nearly go to sleep in my arms. So, it was time to get him home...

...but first, I had to eat. So, I zipped down I-65 until I got to Hwy 119, then cut across to Sonic, where I proceeded to order a #1 combo with cheese, mayo, mustard and ketchup, tots and a blue coconut slush.  

As I waited for my order, I noticed a young man in camouflage walk up, followed closely by a little girl who was maybe 4, and a pretty young lady, who I guessed was either his wife, or at the least, his babymama.

I didn't mean to stare, but I kinda did, as he picked up the little girl, played a little, his wife laughing, and playing with the little girl too, and made my decision. When the chick came up to bring me my food, I took it all in, said thank you, and as she turned away, asked, "Can you do me a favor?"

"Sure!" Perky Carhop replied.

"See that guy in the camo right over there? And the little girl and woman with him?"

"Yup!" Perky Carhop replied.

"Do you know what they ordered? Like, do you know if they got dessert? Like, could I buy them a milkshake, or can you tell if they've already ordered their sweets?"

"Uh... I mean, I don't know... I don't... I didn't..." Perky Carhop stammered, smile gone.

"Never mind that," I said. "I have ten dollars. Can you take this, go inside and purchase two 5 dollar gift cards, and when you come out, just give one to the solder, and one to the young lady, and simply say that someone wanted to thank them both for their service and sacrifice? Please don't point me out, just give them the cards."

"I... I mean, I think... I don't know if we sell gift cards for $5, like, I'm like, not sure if you have to get them at $10 or more but... " Perky Carhop's friendly demeanor was all but gone, as I now was the customer she wanted to get rid of.

"Just please check for me. If you cannot get cards for $5 only, let me know, and we'll do something different..." I instructed.

Perky Carhop smiled wanly and disappeared back into the building.

And I then waited for at least 10 minutes. The family got their food finally, including sundaes and such, making the gift cards a better idea. Finally, I pushed the red button, wondering what in the world could take them so long...

This is the country that has made Iggy Azalea popular, as well as that "#SELFIE" stupid piece of crap song famous, mostly based on the purchases of today's youth, so I wasn't at all surprised that they were having issues doing... well, their job.

At last, Perky Carhop came back out to the car, and asked, "You wanted the gift cards, right?"

To me this was a completely puzzling question, because we just did four laps on this topic fifteen minutes ago, so I kinda feel like it was one of those questions you know the answer to, but you still ask it anyway as a way to simply bring it back up. Which is strange.

"Yes ma'am." I said.

"Okay, we can get those! I'll bring them out in a second!" Perky Carhop was back.

"New plan," I instructed. While she was in the building doing whatever it is she was doing that prevented her from loading two Sonic giftcards with $5 each, I thought about it, and thought about Campbell, who was happily in his carseat, just playing with his toy remote with the spinny wheel on top. He won't remember this instance at all... but I still wanted him to see the soldier and the family. Not so we could get praise, but so he could be there in the moment as we--me and my son--showed them appreciation that they so richly deserve. 

"If you wouldn't mind," I asked Perky Carhop, "please just bring the cards to me. I want me and my son to give them over." 

Perky Carhop smiled a smile that was not as much "That's so nice of you" as it was "Cool with me, so I can carry on with my day." She wasn't disrespectful at all, just more of viewing me as hindering her work, which I guess was kinda true. Still, I thought this was important.

Perky Carhop brought the cards out to me a few minutes later, and I unbuckled Campbell, and pulled him out of the seat. I walked over to the family, and simply said, "Hey guys... my name is d$ and this my son Campbell. We wanted to just tell both of you thank you so much for serving. And we wanted to give you each a small gift card, first to you sir, for serving, and then to you, ma'am, because you sacrifice a lot too so he can serve. Anyway, just wanted to say thank you, because you keep me, and especially this little guy safe at night."

Both the solider and the wife were bewildered at first, with the little girl looking on in curiosity. Then, the wife smiled, and said, "Oh my gosh... thank you, that's... that's so sweet... I mean... thank you..." and the soldier didn't so much smile as just have a "taken aback" look. "Thank you man. I mean, I really appreciate that. That's great."

"It's not a lot," I replied, "but enough to buy you two a milkshake or something. Anyway, you guys have a great day and enjoy your dinner!" Campbell grinned, tugged on my ear and probably said something like "Bah bah bah geh geh..." That could mean any number of things, but this time it probably meant, "Yes, what Daddy said just now. Dig that."

They waved, said thanks again, and we headed back to the Kia Soul. I loaded Pocket Change into the carseat, and as I got out of the backseat, the soldier stood there. "Hey man... thank you. I wanted to tell you how awesome that was."

I smiled, shook his hand, and said, "My dad was Air Force, fought in WWII and Korea, and so I have a deep appreciation for what you guys do, and for what your family has to sacrifice to let you do it."

He smiled, and said, "Yeah, honestly, I think my family has it harder than I do when I'm not there."

"I'll bet. Campbell doesn't talk yet, but I want to teach him to say thank you to you guys, even if it's just a simple 'thank you Mister Army Man'. I want him to understand."

"And we are trying to teach our daughter about doing nice things for other people.... and you gave us a great lesson to show her. Thanks again." The wife hollered out, "Thank you!" and waved from the table.

We parted ways, I got in the car and drove away. I looked in the rearview mirror at Campbell, smiled, and said, "That's how you do it. Just that simple."

Our military needs to be thanked endlessly. If I had had a $1000 gift card to give them, it wouldn't be nearly enough... how do you put a price on missing your kid's birthday, or your anniversary, or funerals of loved ones, or time with your spouse to grow closer together? You can't. And you certainly can't with a $1000 Sonic gift card... and I'm not sure who would want a $1000 Sonic gift card anyway.

Thank a soldier. Just extend your hand and say "Thank you". Or if you are in a Starbucks or McDonalds or a Sonic and you see someone in uniform, grab a $5 gift card and give it to them. Buy them lunch or a shake or a latte... let them know that you appreciate who they are and what they are doing. 

Sometimes they'll just nod your head and say, "Thank you." Many times they will talk to you, and you can see real appreciation and gratitude in their faces. It's so sad when the mere act of showing a soldier thanks results in you getting more gratitude from them then you are giving to them. Many parts of our government are increasingly showing less appreciation to the men and women in uniform AND to the families and friends who have to pick up their slack left behind while they fight--and are injured, maimed, or killed--for us.

Anyway, just wanted to share that with you. Like I said, this wasn't about me doing anything noble, it was about how we should all be doing the same until the act isn't so uncommon.

Thank you, Mister Army Man

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

the edge of a dozen movie dash

Here's what I like to call "The Dozen Movie Dash"... a quick review on 12 movies I've seen recently, some new, some old...

MALEFICENT (2014)... If you love the original film, you may have an issue with this retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story. Well, not if you love it, I mean, if you are a loyalist to the original animated film... because this takes that film, flips it over like an Etch-a-Sketch, shakes it, and redraws a new tale... and this tale is very polarizing, as most people either love it or hate it. I don't know that I loved it, but I liked it very much.

Those cheekbones are a little weird... but overall, she's fantastic in this role.
We see Maleficent as a young fairy, meeting Stefan for the first time, forging a friendship and growing up together... and we see the heartbreak Maleficent had when Stefan forgot all about her, in order to chase his dream of being a human king. As the original story goes, a daughter is born (by a queen we see for a few minutes, and then hear that later, she's sick), is cursed by Maleficent, and is put into the care of three bumbling fairies named something, another and whatever (not the Fauna, Flora and Meriweather we all know and loved). The story does take a turn somewhere towards the end, though you might predict the "True Love Kiss" aspect of it, especially if you've seen "Frozen", and ends in a big battle scene, complete with the requisite dragon and everything.

The star of this film, though, is Angelina Jolie... she is completely mesmerizing. I'm one of about four guys in the entire world of 7 billion people who doesn't find Jolie all that attractive (she looked her best when she looked all mussed in "Gone in Sixty Seconds"), but in this film, I was just captivated. When she's onscreen, you can't look away, as they put her perfectly sculpted face and ruby red lips front and center each time. Even the cuteness of Elle Fanning as Aurora can't take anything away from AJ... and I'm okay with it. "Maleficent" is Angelina's movie, as I cannot think of anybody who could have done this film as well as she did.

Love it, like, dislike or hate it, this isn't a movie you'll forget, especially Angelina in the title. role. Rated PG for fantasy violence.

EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)... There are three things that I learned about this film. First, Tom Cruise still has it. He's excellent in this, he plays cowardice (early in the film) wonderfully, and we know he can be the hero (the rest of the film) from all the other movies he's been in. Second, despite what you hear, this isn't "Groundhog Independence Day", though I could see how one might think it. The whole plot centers the planet Earth, in the midst of an alien invasion, and a solider named Cage (Cruise) who ends up replaying the same day over and over... when he dies in battle, and in the beginning, it's very quickly, he wakes up again the day before, in the same spot. Only every time he starts over, he has learned a little more. Unlike "Groundhog Day", you learn in "Edge" of exactly why he is coming back again and again. And the story itself isn't entirely living the same 24 hours over and over again... the plot expands, and it's very well written, comical at just the right time, and a great popcorn movie to be enjoyed.
Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise facing off in their battle gear.  As long as
Tom stays away from "Oblivion 2", we're okay.
Oh, the third thing I learned? Emily Blunt is beautiful. Well, I already knew this, but she's great in this. PG-13 for language and science fiction violence.

MILLION DOLLAR ARM (2014)... In this typical Disney sports film of overcoming the odds, Jon Hamm is JB, a sports agent who has seemingly lost the account that will save his agency. Things look grim, things look bleak, things look downright impossible... and yet, one night, while randomly watching Indian cricket with his friend and business partner Aash, he gets the stroke of inspiration he needs... hold a talent competition in India to find the next, great Major League Baseball pitcher. Off he goes, and first it doesn't work out, then it starts to, and then there are trials and tribulations and toss in Alan Arkin being crotchety as usual, then Bill Paxton in a low key coaching role and the gorgeous Lake Bell for eye candy, plus a few unknowns from Bollywood... and you have this movie.

I liked it okay enough, but I won't remember it in six months. PG for language and drinking and such.

AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)... I loved this film. I thought it was great, it was inventive, it was funny, and it was so, so well written. The all star cast includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with), Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, who has gotten no love in the last awards season for his part even though his hair alone was amazing... of course, the movie itself got no Oscar love either, nominated for 10 or 11 awards, and won absolutely Zero of them.  The director is David O. Russell, who did The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook... and yeah, those movies contain a many of the aforementioned cast.

Lots of cursing, as you'd expect from a Rated R film to contain... now, the story is a con movie. Who's conning who, who's telling the truth, who is lying, and so on. I figured it about 2/3rd of the way through, but that didn't lesson the enjoyment of the film at all. If you liked The Fighter or Silver Linings Playbook (both are superior films), you should enjoy this--the performances, which are marvelous, outdo the story itself.

PAIN & GAIN (2013)... I'll watch anything with The Rock, and am a big fan of Mark Wahlberg as well, so this had potential. Set in the mid-90s, Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) recruits his friends Paul (The Rock) and Adrian (Anthony Mackie) to help kidnap a millionaire (Tony Shalhoub) because they all feel like they deserve more, and "they are doers". Full of random comedy, yet wanting to be a crime story too, it sorta works. A little long for my tastes, and its hard to believe the characters are as stupid as they are--of course, it was based on a true story. One of the funniest parts sees one The Rock actually grilling hands that have been cut off from dead bodies... to remove the fingerprints. Suddenly the scene freezes, and the words "THIS IS STILL A TRUE STORY" are shown on the screen... and I laughed heartily. Rated R for lots of language, some random boobage, and lots of violence.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE (2014)... Following the success of 300, which was a great movie, this is not only a prequel, but its a sequel... and a... concurrentqual? The storyline of Rise of an Empire begins before the events of "300", during the events of "300" and continues after the ending of "300", with many callbacks to the "300" characters, notably Leonidis (Gerard Butler). His widow, played by Lena Hedley, plays a big part in this one, as well as former Bond Girl, Eva Green. Honestly, I couldn't decide if I found Eva Green attractive, or if I was terrified of her. Not as good as "300", but not as bad as you think it would be. Rated R for language and boobs. And violence.

 
You'll find yourself singing that "Everything is Awesome" song a whole
lot after you see it.  It's addicting, as it should be.
THE LEGO MOVIE (2014)... Everything is awesome! Everything is awesome when you see this film... Everything is cool when you are watching this film, everything is awesome! This movie is great... I mean, just great. Its fun, its original, its funny, its filled with hidden jokes, the cast is perfect (Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Arnett, so many more), and the ending scene has a great twist that I did even see coming... I know a few people who don't like this movie, and I just don't get how you can't at least find this movie mildly amusing. Its great. Rated PG.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)... This film is excellent. I mean, just excellent in so many ways. The cast is brilliant--Tom Hanks shines as Captain Phillips, while newcomer Barkhad Abdi is the lead Somali pirate, Muse, is both creepy and menacing and sympathetic and pitiful all at the same time. It took a slightly different direction than I expected about halfway through, though the movie is all the better for it... based on a true story, this movie is thrilling and pretty much non-stop all the way through. Rated PG-13 for violence.

THE INTERNSHIP (2013)... Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play two dudes who need some direction in their lives, and they end up applying for an internship at Google... there is this summerlong program where people compete in teams, with the winning team landing jobs at the Google empire. Of course, Owen and Vince get placed on a team of misfits (like Dodgeball... or The Watch... ), and though I won't spoil it for you, you can guess where this leads... especially when you toss in Pretty Girl that Seems Unattainable But You Know Will Be Attained and Arrogant Dude That Always Gets His Way Until This Movie, Where He Will Get His Come-Uppance characters. Typical, predictable, yet Owen and Vince are charming enough to make is sorta funny. We enjoyed it, but we also like those guys alot, which might have helped. Rated PG-13

Here is the DIVX cover.  It's all bad.
FIRESTORM (1998)... After the success of Christian Slater and John Travolta in the military plane "Broken Arrow" (a film that is awful awesome awful awesome), someone said, "Hey... Howie Long did pretty good as Travolta's sidekick. Let's give him a movie!" Then someone else said, "Hey! Let's put fire in it!" and then someone else said, "Oh, fire in the wilderness!" and then some big suit down at the end pounded the table with a closed fist, saying, "Dang it! That's it! We make Howie a fire fighter in the woods! By jove, we've got it!" And so they made it. And the results are pretty stinkin' awful. I mean, its bad. Rated R for language and violence.

ENOUGH SAID (2013)... Out of all the great performers we've lost in the last year--Dennis Farina, Larry Hagman, Philip Seymour Hoffman--one of the biggies was James Gandolfini. He was such a versatile actor, and in this romantic comedy-drama, he shows even more range. A divorced father ends up meeting a divorced mother, played perfectly by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and somehow they hit it off. Things get complicated when they end up knowing the same people, and try to make a relationship work, even though neither have dated for a long time. The movie is sweet, and funny, and bittersweet all at the same time. It never tries to bill the characters off as sexy or hot or perfect, or even likable, though they are very likable. The movie just shows them as real people, which is what makes this movie so fun and real. I loved this film, and at the very least, you have to appreciate the performances by both Julia and the late, great Gandolfini. Rated PG-13 for language and sexy stuff.

MONUMENTS MEN (2014)... With a cast like George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, that guy from The Artist, and more, how can this movie not be the best movie like, ever. The premise is that in World War II, there were a group of soldiers commissioned to track down and save priceless works of art, those paintings and sculptures and more that Hitler had seized and stolen, to open his own self-aggrandizing museum in Germany. This is based on a real story, from a real book that I read earlier this year.

And like the book, this movie just didn't do it for me. It felt like a series of vignettes that were only slightly connected to each other. It ran long, parts were just uninteresting, and though the book itself tells you of the hundreds, maybe thousands of men who were a part of this Monuments Men team, the movie doesn't even refer to anyone else but the immediate team. Just eh. Disappointing more than anything, because the cast itself almost promises you a better film, and it breaks that promise.

And a bonus...
NEVER SLEEP AGAIN (2013)... On The Deucecast, we do an Assigned Films segment, where we assign each of the other two co-hosts a film to watch and be prepared to discuss them on the next episode. Sometime we get funny, and give movies to each other that we know they will hate, just for laughs, and other times we hand off movies that we genuinely think the other person will like. And then, for fun, sometimes you get handed a 3 hour and 58 minute documentary about "The Nightmare on Elm Street" films. So, over the course of the last week or so, I watched it via Netflix, in bits and pieces, when I could.

And I loved this movie. Every second of it. Now, I'm not a huge Nightmare on Elm Street fan... I liked the original, I thought the third one was pretty good, and the seventh, "New Nightmare", in which all the actors actually play themselves, suddenly terrorized by Freddy Krueger, who has escaped imagination and entered the real world, was just cool.

Though the 238 minute running time is itself a nightmare, it's really an extremely easy watch--it's broken up into 15 and 20 minute segments, each concentrating on a different film in the series. Starting with the first, then the second ("Freddy's Revenge"), then then third ("The Dream Warriors"), then fourth ("Dream Masters), fifth ("The Dream Child"), then the sixth ("Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare"), then the finale ("Wes Craven's New Nightmare") and ending with the encore ("Freddy vs Jason").  Somewhere in the middle, the film even has a segment devoted to the short lived late 80s TV series. 

Along the way, you get great interviews with the actors in each movie, some of them with characters that die in the first few minutes, others that live through multiple films, and of course, lots of Robert Englund (who plays Freddy), Wes Craven (the creator of the series) and Robert Shaye (the former CEO of New Line Cinema, who released the films).

For anyone is even a passing fan of the Elm Street series, this movie is worth a watch, even if you only catch it segment by segment. It goes by much quicker than you think, it's entertaining and it's full of behind the scenes tidbits on how to make scary movies on practically no budget whatsoever.


So there ya go... twelve thirteen movies for your enjoyment... choose wisely.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

the beginning of happy days

Considering this is my #SummerofHappy, or #100HappyDays, as most are calling it, it's a mention of happiness every day between Memorial Day thru Labor Day this year. Here's my first 13 days...

Here's a recap of the first ten days thusfar...


First, The Lovely Steph Leann did a guest post on her very first 5K run, and I was so proud of her...

Day 2... my love of notebooks came to the forefront.

Day 3... brought us X-Men: Days of Future Past. I loved this movie more than you could possibly know... brilliant take on the comic book story.

Day 4... was this fun little nugget from my friend Lauren, who has heard me use the term "Crap it all" many, many times as an exasperation...
 




Day 5... was meeting Tattooed Tinkerbell

Day 6... was having family come over in the middle of the night... So, the keepers of the kid are out of town this week... So as a result, The Lovely Steph Leann's sister Angie came to town, bring with her her 16 going on Diva Madeleine and her 12 year old son Benjamin. The West family (the three I just mentioned) agreed to keep Campbell during the day. They arrived in the evening, headed to stay in Big Ron and Mama Ruthless' home (Steph and Angie's parents)... But when they got there, they found a towel, still damp. A bed, unmade. An attic very dark and lights that don't work. And a mother and daughter freaked out and a son who is like "whatever." My theory was that the brother, Tyler, and his wife Brynndolynn, came through town, stayed there and didn't tell anyone.

Nonetheless, The West family showed up at our door at midnight, just to sleep easy. Yes, my theory was exactly what happened, with Tyler saying, "Forgot to tell y'all..." It was still fun to have them for the night...

Day 7... sitting on a Star Wars/Disney Panel with my friend and comic book shop owner, Stan Daniel

Day 8... was Maleficent, the movie, on a date night with The Lovely Steph Leann

Day 9... was my popsicle from Steel City Pops

Day 10... is a 21st anniversary throwback to my high school graduation, in some of these pictures I stumbled across in stalking glancing at my friend Tonya's Facebook pictures.





Pictures of myself, Tonya and Chris at graduation... then me and Greg, sitting on the bus on our class trip to the Bahamas.... then myself, Greg, Chris (looking like Richard Grieco) and Jason at prom... and finally, my mom with myself, Chris and Tonya, again at graduation.

Day 11... poop jokes. Need I say more.

Day 12... "Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King.... such a great read, like always. Most of King's books are of the fantasy, the supernatural or even the horror kind, but sometimes he does put forth a novel like this, one that has nothing to do with supernatural forces--its just a psychological story of a retired cop being taunted by the "one that got away", a crazy killer who ran a Mercedes Benz through a crowd of people at a job fair... and he's still on the loose, and looking to end the game with a "bang". Great read, great story, especially for fans of crime fiction.

Day 13... My Waffle House Table... ever get a good seat at the Waffle House? You know, that table at the end of the bar that is sometimes there, that only seats 2 people? Getting that all to yourself is the equivalent of getting an airplane seat empty next to you. And I had the table to myself yesterday morning... it was awesome!


So there's the first 13 days. Follow me on Instagram for pictures of everything... superdave310 is what to look for.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

the alabama phoenix festival

Every year, starting like, last year or something, Birmingham has hosted a geek-fest known as The Alabama Phoenix Festival, which is a small version of the San Diego Comic Con or the Dragon Con that happens around the country... I didn't get to go last year, but because our podcast--The Deucecast Movie Picture Show--was actually a guest of the Festival, I was somewhat expected to be there.

There are a few facets to the Alabama Phoenix Festival itself, which include the Exhibition Hall, a large ballroom area full of vendors, artists, dealers, writers and so much more.  They had everything from a LEGO corner (four large tables just covered in LEGOs where people could sit down and just build stuff), to a huge Kingdom Comics area with lots of comics and toys to The Alabama Ghostbusters, who had several large set up areas... plus, a group is building a life sized Millennium Falcon, and you could sit inside a life size cockpit of the Millennium Falcon.  I mean, how stinkin' cool is this.

There were also "Panels", or discussion groups set up all during the weekend, all day long.  Topics included Anime... Ghostbusters... Star Trek... Star Wars... Lord the Rings... making costumes... making armor... Avengers... comic books in general... there was also a room for "Bronies" and "Pegasisters", which from what I understand, was pretty much one of the two or three most popular rooms the entire weekend.

Anyway, here are some little notes, stories and pictures from the weekend...

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What's this "Bronie" or "PegaSister" you speak of?  Adult male and female fans of My Little Pony.  No, I'm not kidding.  Seriously, stop laughing, I'm not kidding you at all.  This exists.  And it's big.  They had a two hour singalong where every song from every episode of the latest incarnation was playing, and the entire room sang loudly and proudly.

The gem of the night came, though, when my buddy Hurricane Rhett let his daughter go in there unattended.  When people were answering questions and discussing their love for the Ponies, little Catalina, 7, stood up and proudly proclaimed how her daddy had watched every episode with her, how her daddy loved the Ponies, and how he kinda gets upset when she watches My Little Pony without him.  On an unrelated note, I saw Chris Hansen this weekend, walking around with some sort of transcript, a plate of cookies and a stool to tell people to "Have a seat right there."

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This is the man, Brock Parker, one of the leaders of the Alabama Ghostbusters.  And yes, there is such a thing, and has been for several years.  He has his own working proton pack.  He's a buddy of mine on Facebook for a few years, and we finally meet in person.  Not that unusual, except we probably grew up around 15 miles from each other, as he's from Enterprise, Alabama, I grew up in Samson, about 20 minutes Southwest on a country backroad through Five Points.  Not the Birmingham downtown 5 Points, I mean were five country roads come together to form a big circle, and a great place to say "Meet me at..." when you either want to fight or make out.  Or both.  Up to you.  Where was I?
 
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I couldn't attend on Friday, as I wasn't feeling good, plus I had to help The Lovely Steph Leann take care of our offspring, but Mikey, Shawn Sharp, Hurricane Rhett, P!nky (our other The Deucecast co-host) attended, got some good pics, met some good people and had a good time.
 
Saturday morning, I was on a panel with Mikey and another podcaster, Shazbazzar, from the TechnoRetro Dad's podcast (he also co-hosts a Tron Podcast, which shows his Tron Love, considering you have only 2 movies a short lived cartoon series, you don't have a ton to work with) concerning the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII, and our hopes for it.  Turned out to be a lively discussion amongst the three of us with help from the audience, including a dude in a Star Trek uniform who knew his Star Wars stuff. 
 
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Ladies and gentlemen, Darth Vol.  Yup.
 
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I sat on another panel on Sunday morning, a "podcasting" panel, hosted and moderated by AJ Wiley and Paul Smith, hosts of the Gobbledygeek Podcast, a popculture cast that's picking up steam in this area quite a bit.  Along the panel were hosts from other shows, including several from the Earth Station One network and mostly pop culture.  There was even an Auburn Football show and a personal podcast hosted by a dude who just "talked about whatever I want to talk about".  Sounds like my kind of cast.
 
It was a good hour, as we all discussed why we started podcasting, where we thought our shows were going, our formats, our content being family friendly or not (The Deucecast is, many are not), and so on.  I knew I was there with some heavyweights, so I had to chime in as much as I could, which I think I did quite nicely, holding my own.  We'll release the show as a podcast episode, and I think Gobbledygeek will release the same hour discussion, at least in part, as one of their shows. 
 
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Tommy Mac takes a ride in the cockpit of the starting phase of the lifesize Millennium Falcon.  This is being built somewhere else, and will be on display when it's finished.  I mean, a full sized Falcon?  First, it's going to be insanely big... and I would probably pass out from the sheer joy I'd have, especially if I could walk inside of it.

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There was a costume contest on Saturday night, where everyone who was wearing a disguise of any kind could sign up, walk across the stage, be judged by the judges and hopefully win stuff.  It was entertaining, though only a few costumes really, really stood out.  There were several Deadpool outfits, two of which really should have had the guy wear a cup of some sort... lots of witches, fairies, Dr Who related stuff, a few Walking Dead nods, and a full on Iron Man suit, battle worn, and an Iron Patriot suit, with flashing lights and an AC/DC soundtrack.  Holy cow, it was awesome. 

However, the winners of the costume contest included a pretty convincing Jor-El outfit, and a Jim Lovell Space Suit--both great, but Iron Patriot should of taken that prize home.  They even brought up four of the fan favorites to the stage for the audience to vote via applause, with Iron Man and Iron Patriot being two of them.  When the host asked for applause, Hurricane Rhett and I stood up cheering. 

There was also a chick in an impressive handmaid antebellum dress ("I even made my underwear!" she yelled from the stage) and a costume that I was not familiar with, someone in a nautilus helmet.  Must have been popular, though, as the audience went nuts over the guy.  And he won. 

The host was interesting as well... I didn't know her costume, but it allowed her the opportunity to place the mics between her cleavage and talk into it. 

The kids contest was also funny, as there were are cute costumes all around.  Rhett's daughter, Catalina, was a Zombie School Girl, though she didn't win--she might have done better if she'd played more to the crowd.  Then again, the judges were off, because one cute 3 year old showed up in an incredibly awesome Kid Icarus outfit... and lost to another kid in a... Terminator? outfit?  It was cute.  But nothing like Icarus. 

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A working, moving R2D2, courtesy of the 501st Legion.  I really want to join the 501st Legion one day... though the restrictions and qualifications are like, hard core.  And expensive.
 
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I didn't have any quarters, or I probably would still be there playing.
 
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We were about to leave after the costume contest when we heard they were doing Who's Line Is It Anyway on the mainstage.  So, Mikey, Shawn, Hurricane Rhett, our friend Lisa B-Dub, her friend Something or Other and Tommy Mac and I stuck around to watch.  And it... it was... oh em gee... it was just terrible.  Not funny. At.All.  The jokes were flat, they didn't even follow the rules of the game they were playing, they stuttered and stammered and it was just... bad.  I am sure the people in there were pleasant enough in real life, but onstage, this night, this group of people were not humorous in the least... to the point I winced a few times.  It was painful.
 
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Set up across the room from the Alabama Ghostbusters, its the Florence, AL, Ghostbusters that provided the Ecto-1, which is pretty close in detail.
 
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Towards the end of the night, we were approached by a young lady named Sarah.  She was a UAB student in psychology, and asked if we would be willing to take a survey.  Thinking it was survey about the Alabama Phoenix Festival, most of us said "Sure thing," and took the clipboards to help out.   It was three pages long, and it was absolutely insane.
 
It was not about the Alabama Phoenix Festival, that was very clear from the first few questions, and as we soon learned, it wasn't about any festival at all.  It was about... well, the psychology of men and women.  It was about preferences, feelings, emotions, stereotypes and even more.  While I figured this would still be anonymous, we had also signed a waiver at the beginning, so our name was actually on the survey.  Pages 1 and 2 were easy enough, though a little strange, but then Page 3 came.
 
All in a "Give a number 1 through 5, with 1 being strongly disagree, 2 being disagree, 3 being neither agree nor disagree, 4 being agree and 5 being strongly agree" answer format, it was questions about men and women, and the way we view each other.  Questions about whether we men think we are better then women, whether we are uncomfortable when a woman makes more than we do, wondering if women have more potential in the workfield than men, and then, my favorite... "Men should always save themselves first, then women, in a disaster situation." 
 
When we all finished, we all let Sarah know that we felt the survey was a little manipulative (it was) and not easy to answer truthfully (it wasn't)... "So, if you put 'agree' here, are you saying you 'agree' with what it says you shouldn't do, or should you put 'disagree', because of the way it's worded...?
 
Sarah seemed a little disinterested in our response to the survey, especially when Hurricane Rhett and I said the following:
 
Me:  So in this question about whether men should save themselves first in a disaster situation... I guess my question for that is... how hot is she?  Because that might determine what we as men do?
 
Hurricane Rhett:  Yeah... and then, can she cook?  Can she clean?  Because if the answer to those questions are both Yes, then I'm a little more inclined to break a sweat over her rescue...
 
Sarah stared at us, forced an uncomfortable smile, and simply said, "...wow...".
 
It was awesome.
 
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Our new friend, Shazbazzar, in a Star Wars Clone Wars panel.  
 
About that Star Wars Clone Wars panel... having never seen a single episode of the heralded series, I chose to sit that panel out, though Mikey and Shaz again led. There were two more guys that were supposed to be there, but failed to show, so again, it became a lively discussion amongst the two panelists and the audience. I barely had anything to contribute, though I did read a little about Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas, who was working with the Kaminoans to... you know what, it doesn't matter.
 
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Stan Daniel and I discuss Star Wars and Disney for a solid hour.  And it was magical.
 
 
The final one of the three panels I sat one was probably my favorite.  Stan Daniel, owner of Kingdom Comics, and one of the heads of the Alabama Phoenix Festival is also like me, a huge Disney fan.  So our topic was "May the Mouse Be With You... Always", which was simply Star Wars & Disney.  It was supposed to be about merchandising, and much of it was, but we delved into Harry Potter and Universal's coming on strong, the prospects of a new park for Disney, what to do with Star Wars in the parks, hopes for the new movies, and Jedi Mickey.  Afterwards, our friend Hurricane Rhett, in the audience, pointed at me and said, "I knew he knew Disney.  But this guy KNOWS Disney."  I was proud.
 
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I love Tinkerbell. And I didn't mind a tattooed Tinkerbell.  I told her that I was excited to get my picture with her, and she made a comment about how she'd had two stalkers earlier today. Unsure if that was true, or just saying that because I came on way to strong, I laughed and told her I had the same issue when I wore my Tinkerbell costume.  After she laughed, and then swallowed the vomit that she thew up in her mouth, we got a picture. Her real name is Shay Blaze.

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We also had dinner on Saturday, and lunch on Sunday, at Mugshots, a burger joint that I liked very much.  My best mate Wookiee joined us and enjoyed the last day of the Festival, so it was good to have him around.  The food was excellent, reasonable for the location and what it was and the service was also enjoyable.
 
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I told Stan that I was surprised there was no Harry Potter panel of any kind... they even had a "Hobbit: Book versus Movie" panel, but absolutely nothing Hogwarts, and how they should consider that next year.
 
He asked me what I was thinking, and I told him any number of topics would work... Harry Potter: the Books versus the Movies... Predictions for the upcoming trilogy (which I do not agree with)... Discussions of the locations and little seen characters... anything like that, though what I really wanted to discuss was the Legacy of Star Wars vs The Legacy of Harry Potter, including Universal and Disney in particular.  That is a conversation I could spend hours on, and am planning it for a blog very, very soon.
 
He loved the idea so much that he said he would seriously consider submitted a Harry Potter track of panels next year, but he also wants myself and Mikey to come and debate in a forum against a local children's author and a local Harry Potter historian ("she knows Harry Potter like it's her Bible", Stan said later, which is good because if she's like me, I don't know my Bible nearly as well as I should).  That will happen sometime later this summer, so that should be fun.
 
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All in all, we had a blast at the Alabama Phoenix Festival. Finally met Brock Parker, attended a real life Ghostbusters panel, saw how big the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon would actually be, met a tattooed Tinkerbell, whispered, "I love you!" as I walked away probably hopefully making her feel all kinds of awkward, discussed Disney, Star Wars and Harry Potter at length, saw a real R2D2, a real Iron Patriot, a real Iron Man, about 72 Harley Quinns, a Joker, a Dr. Who phone booth and just got to hang with my boy-oyz.  So it was great.
 
By the way, what is it with Doctor Who?  I mean, five years ago, few people cared, and now the TARDIS phone booth thing is everywhere.   Should I be in on this?  Do I have time for this?
 
Will be making a return next year, as we are already considering doing a live show from there and having a table in the Exhibition Hall to broadcast from and do live games from. 
 
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